Fans in 'Riot Squad' say Beckham escalated confrontation
Did David Beckham escalate his confrontation with a Los Angeles Galaxy fan with something he said?
At halftime of Sunday's 2-2 tie with AC Milan, Beckham walked toward the "L.A. Riot Squad" section of the stadium and motioned to a fan to come closer. The man jumped down from the seats and was arrested by police for trespassing.
Afterward, Beckham said he'd wanted to shake the fan's hand. "One of the guys was saying things that really wasn't very nice," he said after the game, according to the Los Angeles Times. "It was stepping over the line. I said, 'You need to calm down and come shake my hand,' and he jumped over."
But fans in the section, who booed Beckham every time he touched the ball and displayed banners reading "Go Home Fraud" and "23: Repent," told the Times that Beckham was not blameless in the altercation and used foul language.
"He called the guy out," said Eric Lewis of Los Angeles, a member of the fan group, according to the report. "He called out a drunk fan. How stupid is that? He's the player. He's the professional. He should have kept himself under control. He didn't."
Another Riot Squad member, Jeff Austin of Highland Park, said in an e-mail to the Times that Beckham's actions were "way out of line for a professional athlete," according to the report. "Anything that he says putting the blame entirely on the fan is nothing short of a complete lie," he added.
It was Beckham's first game in Los Angeles since returning to the Galaxy from a five-month loan to AC Milan, during which he tried to arrange a permanent transfer from MLS to the Serie A club.
Riot Squad member Bob Ramsey, a theology professor and minister from Glendora, said he talked to fans who were closest to where the fan jumped the wall. "I haven't talked to everybody, but no one remembers hearing anything beyond 'scum,' 'traitor,' those kinds of things. Nothing about his family," Ramsey said.
Ramsey said he thought what triggered Beckham's reaction was a fan abusing a Beckham jersey, according to the report.
"We were giving him the business as soon as he came out for warmups," Ramsey said, according to the Times. "His first reaction was to give us a thumbs-up and I thought, 'OK, he's going to play along with it and just realize that we're going to kind of give him a hard time here and he's going to have to play through it.'
"I honestly think if he had done that everything would have been fine. At halftime, he seemed to see something when he was running off the field and he came over and was challenging the guys in the front of our section," he said, according to the report.
Monday, Galaxy coach and GM Bruce Arena said the team regretted the incident.
The fan, identified in media reports as Josh Paige, faces a lifetime ban from the stadium, a Home Depot Center communciations director Alison Groendal Salcedo told USA Today.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.